FOR Natwarlal Chhaganlal Lotia, 62, the symptoms were startling enough: acute pain in the abdomen, loss of appetite, increasing fatigue, failing memory and a near neurological breakdown. Doctors allopathic, homoeopathic and ayurvedic treated him for gastroenteritis, appendicitis, cancer of the intestine. Still no-go. Finally, Lotia's family physician suggested that his blood be tested for lead. Doctors found the level of lead in Lotia's blood to be 10 times more than the permissible 10 micrograms per 100 ml of blood. Similar levels were found in wife Hira's and son Shreyas's blood samples.
The culprit? Atta. The wheat flour which the family used every day in Bangalore was contaminated with lead, a fine powder of the toxic metal trickling in from the axle of the roller flour machine. Over the years, it had mixed with the atta to continuously add noxious ingredient into the staple food of Lotias. "My request is that people should realise that these are sources of lead, so harmful that it makes people anaemic and also affects the brain," laments Lotia.